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Renée Graham

If this nation cared about sexual assault, Trump would not be president

(Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photo)

The president of the United States is an accused sexual predator. Does anyone care?

In her upcoming memoir, “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” writer E. Jean Carroll says that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of a New York department store in 1996. Yet on the Sunday morning news shows, no one could spare a minute to talk about the possible ramifications of Carroll’s claims. She is at least the 16th woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct ranging from groping to rape.

By Monday, The New York Times tried to explain its decision to downplay the story throughout the weekend. On the same day, editors relegated it to an “In Other News” roundup, wedged between teasers for the US women’s soccer team advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals and Italy’s selection as host of the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Carroll continued making the rounds on cable news, but it seemed like her revelation might disappear faster than a mob informant in concrete shoes. Many are so numb to this string of allegations, attention is barely paid.

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As he has done in the past, Trump offered a denial, plus his usual steaming helping of general ickiness. “I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type,” he said in an interview Monday. “Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?”

He falsely claims he’s never met Carroll, although they were photographed (along with their now ex-spouses) at a late-1980s party.

It’s telling how often Trump evokes a too-unattractive-to-rape trope as a defense against sexual assault allegations. In Trump’s mind, that closes the discussion. That’s unacceptable to anyone who cares about the safety of women, sexual assault survivors, and what message this sends about whether anyone should be above the law.

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Of course, such allegations against Trump aren’t new. Even after the 2016 release of that “Access Hollywood” audiotape, in which Trump boasts about nonconsensual kissing and the grabbing of women’s genitals, his campaign was never in danger. The needle barely budged.

What Trump described on that 2005 tape sounds similar to Carroll’s description of her encounter with him in Bergdorf Goodman, a high-end Manhattan store. Two friends with whom she shared her story at the time had contrasting reactions. One told her to go to the police; the other said, “Tell no one. Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He’ll bury you.”

Carroll didn’t forget it, but neither did she report it. In a New York magazine book excerpt, she explains why she didn’t “come forward” sooner.

“Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun,” she writes. “Also, I am a coward.”

To the contrary, Carroll isn’t a coward. That lack of moral fortitude belongs to Trump’s defenders. So what if she waited to tell her story? She’s telling it now, and too few people are listening. What’s happening to her is what happened to Anita Hill in 1991, to Christine Blasey Ford last year, and to every sexual assault survivor who finally breaks their silence for their truth.

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“With all the 16 women who have come forward, it’s the same,” Carroll said on CNN. Trump “denies it, he turns it around, he attacks, and he threatens. Then everybody forgets it, and the next woman comes along, and I am sick of it. Think of how many women have come forward, and nothing happens.”

Two-plus years of the Trump White House have left us with outrage fatigue. This is how atrocities become routine. What was macabre is now an everyday absurdity — alongside children in cages, incoherent war-mongering, and a deplorable presidency with dictatorial aspirations.

Carroll likely won’t be the last woman with a story to tell about Trump, and she won’t be the last to be discredited by him, overlooked by the public, and muted in the media.

A president accused of sexual misconduct — again — is just another blip in this grotesque historical era. It’s been normalized. Of course, if this nation took seriously the harm inflicted on women, and the trauma of sexual assault survivors, we wouldn’t have an accused sexual predator in the White House.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.